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Karlin Hasidism (Cont'd)

D. Struggle and Victory (1794 - 1801)

The spread of hasidism in the province of Polesia in the nineties of the eighteenth century is a clear indication that, by this time, the Jewish masses had already changed their originally extremely unfavorable attitude to the hasidic movement. Through daily contact with the hasidim, the ordinary Jew had grown used to their peculiar customs and characteristics, and had thus ceased to feel 'the danger from hasidism' against which his spiritual leaders, the rabbis, were continually fulminating. The thirty years of the existence of hasidism had provided empirical proof that the religious and social innovations instituted by the new movement had not resulted in a schism in Judaism, or even in any serious divergence from its norms. It is possible that hasidism would have developed differently and would not have contented itself with merely introducing slight changes in the form of the prayers and in the way of life of the individual Jew and the whole community, if it had not met with such violent opposition at the start. Moreover, the changes that hasidism underwent in its own internal development at this same time -- the nineties of the eighteenth century -- also helped to dispel the fear of the 'hasidic threat.' By then, the doctrines of the first hasidic teachers about the nature of Judaism and the way of life to be followed by the believer had already undergone a contraction, the main emphasis now being laid on tsaddikism -- the belief in the Tsaddik as 'the true foundation of the world,' and in the material effectiveness of his prayer and blessing, and his power thereby to help the individual in time of need. In the psychology of the ordinary, simple Jew this belief now became the principal doctrine of hasidism.

This internal development in hasidism resulted in an increase in the numbers of the movement's adherents. The popular belief in the sanctity and efficacy of the individual Tsaddik was such that, as soon as a Tsaddik (who was usually the son or disciple of another Tsaddik) took up residence in some place, a number of the local inhabitants became hasidim. The main tenet of their hasidism was their belief in the Tsaddik (or 'Rebbe'), whom they regarded as a saint and who was for them a greater religious authority than the official spiritual leader of their community, the local Rav. These are the factors that explain the extent to which R. Asher of Stolin and R Mordekhai of Lakhovich succeeded in spreading the hasidic doctrine in the nineties in Polesia. The growing strength of the hasidim went hand in hand with the steady decline of their rivals, the kahal. Indeed, even in the stronghold of mithnagdism, in Vilna itself, the number of hasidim apparently increased in the years from 1790 onwards, to judge from the fact that in this period we find hasidim among the members of the kahal. In their struggle to free themselves from the jurisdiction of the official kahal, the hasidim took advantage of the latter's moral decline: the essentially religious character of this struggle was thus almost completely overshadowed by secular issues, such as the embezzlements of public funds by the leaders of the kahal, and the like. At first, the hasidim had attacked the arrogance of the rabbinical scholars. Now, in the latter part of the struggle, their onslaught was directed against the despotic rule of the kahal. Here the hasidim were considerably helped by the restrictions imposed on the independent authority of the kahal, partly by the government of Poland during that country's last period of independence, and partly by the Russian government after the last partition of Poland. With their powers thus reduced, the leaders of the kahal tried to gain the support of the Russian authorities, and for this purpose employed political arguments in their controversy with the hasidim. In this way, the struggle between the hasidim and the kahal, which had originally been essentially religious, now took on an additional political and social character.

A very important part in the last stages of this conflict was played, as already stated, by the leaders of the Vilna kahal, the Pinsk Av Beth-Din, R. Avigdor, and R. Shneur-Zalman of Ladi. For the first three years -- i.e., from 1794 till the death of the Vilna Gaon in 1797 --the main struggle took place in Lithuania. Then, in 1798, it was transferred to St. Petersburg, where it finally ended in 1801.

In 1794, after the Karlin hasidim in Pinsk had defeated their bitter enemy, R. Avigdor, the Minsk kahal decided -- as we know from the community records [pinkas] -- to ban all prayer-meetings of the hasidic minyan. [96] A year later, the provincial governor at Minsk, one Tutolmin, who was well versed in the details of this sectarian conflict and supported the Hasidim, persuaded the Empress Catherine II to promulgate a decree greatly reducing the powers of the kahal. [97] That same year, the communities of Grodno and Vilna, realizing the separatist aims of the hasidim, appealed to the Russian government to recognize the elected kahal as the sole legally authorized representative of the Jewish population. [98] Meanwhile, the hasidim had managed to circulate large numbers of copies of their writings, in particular Tsavaath ha-Ribash.

They also spread abroad a story to the effect that the Vilna Gaon now regretted his hounding of the hasidim; while at the same time a young scholar, who gave himself out to be the Gaon's son, traveled from town to town affirming the truth of this story. These acts of the hasidim still further incensed the mithnagdim against them, and at a meeting of the leaders of the Lithuanian communities in Vilna (June, 1796), under the presidency of the Vilna Gaon, it was decided to take more stringent measures against the hasidim. A letter was sent out; signed by the Gaon and reaffirming his previous attitude to the hasidim. In this letter the threat to Judaism from hasidism is once again stressed and the Jews are once more called on to root out hasidism from their midst. [99] Two special envoys, R, Hayyim and R. Saadyah, set out with this letter for the communities of Lithuania and White Russia, in order to display it publicly to the Jewish population there. When the letter reached Minsk, the Hasidim rumored it abroad that the Gaon's signature was a forgery and that the letter was not his at all. The Minsk community immediately appealed to Vilna for confirmation of the Gaon's signature, at the same time complaining that the hasidim had greatly increased in numbers in the provinces of Vilna and Slonim. In response to this request, on the day after Yom Kippur 1796, the Gaon sent the provincial communities of Lithuania, White Russia, Volhynia and Podolia a letter denouncing the hasidim still more violently. The letter was again carried by envoys. The reason for the specially vigorous anti-hasidic activity of the Minsk community was that the hasidim had become particularly numerous in this province, which included Pinsk, Karlin, Stolin and Lakhovich. Two weeks after the receipt of the Gaon's letter, the Minsk community published a proclamation to all the communities in the Minsk province [100] -- and no doubt also to the community of Pinsk --demanding that strong action be taken against the hasidim, and that they should not be allowed to travel to their 'Rebbes.' [101] This proclamation was publicly read out in the synagogues and batei midrash of Minsk. At the same time, the Lithuanian Maggid and mithnaged, R. Yisrael-Leibel, was delivering his anti-hasidic sermons in the synagogues, and his Sefer Vikkuah was published with the approval of the Minsk Av Beth-Din (1798). As already stated, this book denounces R. Mordekhai of Lakhovich as a demagogic agitator whose aim was to lead good Jews astray. The hasidim resorted to burning the proclamations and driving out the envoys. Thus, sectarian passions were once more roused in Lithuania when, at the height of the tension (1797), the Vilna Gaon suddenly died.

From this point onwards the struggle between the two sections of the Jewish population was waged with the participation of the Russian authorities. The kahal realized that its weapons -- excommunications, proclamations, and the like -- made too little impression to be effective. At the same time, the hasidim for their part saw that their chief enemy was now the kahal, which derived its powers from the secular authorities. When, after the Gaon's death, the third excommunication of the 'Karliners' [i.e., hasidim] was proclaimed in the Vilna synagogues to the accompaniment of blasts on the shofar, an order was immediately published by the governor of the province in Vilna, Friesel, forbidding any proclamation of a herem. [102] Obviously this prohibition was issued at the instigation of the hasidim and testifies to the decline in the power of the kahal and the extent of the influence of the hasidim at that time. The Vilna community now set up a special committee to continue the struggle. Anti-hasidic feelings rose to a new height of intensity, following a rumor that the hasidim had gone wild with joy after the death of the Vilna Gaon.

In 1798, the leader of the 'Karliners' in White Russia, R. Shneur-Zalman of Ladi -- in the Russian documents, 'Zalman Borukhovich' [i.e., son of Barukh] -- and the Tsaddikim of the 'Karliner' sect in Lithuania were indicted before the Supreme Court in St. Petersburg as revolutionaries. On the basis of this indictment, the public prosecutor ordered 'that the whole affair thoroughly investigated and that Rabbi Borukhovich's leading assistants be brought under heavy guard to St. Petersburg... Immediately after this, twenty-two of the "Karliners" were imprisoned in Vilna and other districts. Seven of them, who were among Rabbi Borukhovich's chief aides, were left in prison here [sc. in Vilna]... The seven Jews sent to St. Petersburg... were stopped on the way at Riga and returned [to Vilna]... After an investigation of the Jewish sect of the Karliners, and after the explanations provided by R. Zalman Borukhovich, His Royal Highness the Tsar decreed... since he did not find in their acts [sc. of the "Karliners"] anything harmful to the State, that they all be set free... but that a close watch be kept on their actions and those of their associates... After this, all the adherents of the sect still in prison were released.' [103]

According to hasidic tradition, R. Asher of Stolin and R. Mordekhai of Lakhovich were among those imprisoned. [104] The day of their release, which happened to be the fifth day of Hanukkah, became a day of rejoicing for the Karlin and Lakhovich hasidim and was given the name of 'the fifth light.' [105] On this day the hasidim used to gather in their shtiebel, eat latkes [potato-pancakes], drink and sing, and recount the miracle of the Rebbe's release. Avraham-Baer Gottlober records this in his reminiscences, which contain interesting and typical details. He writes: 'An old man from Vilna, R. Zalman Miliater, told me that, when the Vilna Gaon departed this life... the mithnagdim brought a false accusation against seven of the leading hasidim, pillars of this community... who were then imprisoned and condemned to be deported to Siberia. When they were taken away from Vilna under military guard, the leaders of the Vilna community added to this another, Jewish guard, to make sure that the hasidim should not escape by bribing the soldiers. As they were passing through a small town, they entered a Jewish house and asked for something to eat. They were given terefah [ritually unclean] food, since the Jews said to themselves: "They're 'Karliners' (the name given by the Lithuanian Jewish masses to the hasidim), aren't they, so why should they eat ritually slaughtered [kasher] meat?..." This incident shows that the quarrel between the two groups had become so bitter that they were almost split into two separate peoples. Thanks to representations made to the authorities, the seven prisoners were returned [to Vilna] from Riga; and the fifth light is still a day of rejoicing for Lithuanian Hasidim.' [106] The institution of a special festive day to mark the occasion testifies to the historical truth of the imprisonment of the Karlin and Lakhovich Tsaddikim.

After the release of the 'Karliner' leaders, the Russian government decreed (December 15th, 1798) that 'the Karlin sect is not dangerous and may continue to exist as previously.' [107] Encouraged, naturally enough, by this victory, the hasidim proceeded to accuse the heads of the Vilna kahal of embezzling public funds. [108] As a result, the heads of the kahal were imprisoned in Vilna, the boxes containing the kahal documents were sealed, and a date was set for new elections (February, 1799). Under pressure from the Russian authorities, eight hasidim were elected to the new, seventeen-member kahal. The hasidim thus achieved equal rights in Vilna, the mithnaged stronghold.

At the same time as in Vilna and Minsk the struggle against the hasidim was being conducted by the kahal, in Pinsk R. Avigdor, as we learn from the wording of his request quoted above, was left to fight a lone battle against them. The beginning of this struggle in Pinsk and its environs is described by R. Avigdor in his letter of appeal. He was no doubt helped in carrying on the struggle by the actions of the Vilna and Minsk communities, especially as Pinsk was spiritually close to Vilna and administratively linked to the main provincial community of Minsk. The proclamation of the Vilna Gaon (1796) must also have reached Pinsk, as must the Gaon's two special envoys, R. Hayyim and R. Saadyah; and the third herem was also proclaimed there. In the pinkas of the Minsk community for the year 1798, we find a ban on ritual slaughtering after the manner of the hasidim (with 'sharpened slaughtering knives'). Every animal and bird slaughtered in the hasidic manner was decreed to be terefah, and anyone that transgressed this ban was declared to be in herem. Similar decrees are found in the pinkasim of other towns in Lithuania and White Russia. [109] It may be presumed that Pinsk, too, was similarly torn by sectarian strife in those years.

In the Stolin genizah there is a letter from R. Asher of Stolin to a certain R. Yosef of Pinsk which contains an echo of the tense situation prevailing in Pinsk in those years and testifies to R. Avigdor's sectarian fervor against the hasidim. R. Asher writes as follows:

'My dear friend, R. Yosef,

I was enraged to hear that this man had told his followers to bring him a hasid's head. Although this is nothing new to me, still, if I am unable to make peace as we agreed, do you all form a single group and let all the doers of iniquity be dispersed. I warn you to let nothing be changed and not to let him carry out his evil design. Strengthen the weak-kneed and feeble-handed, and may the Lord uphold you with the strength of faith. Truth is strong and everlasting; therefore be not concerned or afraid or cast down, and the Lord will make peace as seems good to Him, for we have fought this battle only for the Lord's sake.

From your affectionate friend who prays for your welfare, Asher of Stolin. Greetings to you all in the name of the Almighty.'

R. Asher does not explicitly name 'this man (who) had told his followers to bring him a hasid's head.' This is in keeping with his regular practice, in his letters dealing with controversial matters, of not mentioning names. In this letter here, the Karlin hasidim in Pinsk are advised to dissociate themselves from the rest of the community and to establish their own entity: 'If I am unable to make peace as we agreed, do you all form a single group' -- an instruction that was actually carried out, as is evident from R. Avigdor's letter of appeal (the election' of Hershel Kolodner, etc.). Although R. Asher's letter bears no date, it was obviously written in the last decade of the eighteenth century. [110]

The subsequent developments in R. Avigdor's fight against the hasidim, in Pinsk and its environs, are described in his detailed letter of appeal which deserves to be treated as a court confession. The Karlin hasidim, like their brethren in Vilna, found a way to the Russian authorities, in this case to the provincial governor in Minsk, and were able to influence him by their representations. In the report of the Pinsk municipal leaders, we read that R. Avigdor was unduly fond of the bottle. That the hasidim were responsible for this statement is clear from the fact that R. Avigdor's intemperance is also mentioned by R. Shneur-Zalman in the reply sent by him to the Tsar Alexander I (May, 1801). We further find references to this weakness of R. Avigdor's in the hasidic writings. [111] However, even when the influence of the Vilna community was greatly weakened after the first release from prison of R. Shneur-Zalman (1798), R. Avigdor still refused to give up the struggle. Seeing that both the local authorities in Pinsk and the provincial governor at Minsk took the side of the hasidim, he appealed over their heads to the highest government institutions in St. Petersburg.

In 1800, after consultation with the Vilna kahal, [112] he traveled to St. Petersburg and presented his petition in person. After a long, drawn-out correspondence between the public prosecutor in St. Petersburg and the provincial authorities in Vilna and Minsk, the government decided that the 'Karliner sect' did not constitute a political danger. With regard to R. Avigdor's demand for the repayment of the debt owing him, the public prosecutor decided, in the Tsar's name, to instruct the provincial governors to investigate the matter. The Minsk governor handed the investigation over to the local authorities. What eventually happened to the financial demands made by R. Avigdor we do not know. All that is certain is that, in his second petition which he presented in April, 1801, after R. Shneur-Zalman's second release from prison, he writes that he has still not received the money. [113]

While R. Avigdor was running from government office to government office in St. Petersburg, mainly in connection with his financial demands, R. Shneur-Zalman was suddenly brought to the same city and imprisoned there. His imprisonment was this time connected with the report on the state of Russian Jewry submitted at that time to the government by the poet and statesman, Dyerzhavin. [114] The order for the imprisonment of R. Shneur-Zalman was received by the provincial governor of White Russia, after Dyerzhavin had visited the governor in connection with an investigation of the causes of the famine in the province. Before this, there had been an exchange of letters about the hasidim between the provincial governors in Lithuania and Minsk. During his visit to White Russia, Dyerzhavin had made the acquaintance of R. Shneur-Zalman. Four days after Dyerzhavin submitted his report, R. Shneur-Zalman was thrown into prison. In St. Petersburg, R. Avigdor helped the judges by drawing up in writing questions and charges to be used in the investigation of R. Shneur-Zalman, to which the latter replied also in writing. The whole matter was then handed over by the 'Secret Office' to the third department of the Senate. A fortnight later, R. Shneur-Zalman was released from prison, but ordered to remain in St. Petersburg.

Both parties to the dispute submitted petitions and declarations which contained details about the first imprisonment of R. Shneur-Zalman in 1798. R. Avigdor, in his petitions, demands that all the other 'Karliner' leaders should also be arrested and brought to St. Petersburg, [115] a demand which was not granted. The documents show that the hasidim of Lakhovich, whose influence had meanwhile spread to the 'principal community' of Lithuania, Slutsk, were being violently harried by the mithnagdim, and also that the hasidim as a whole enjoyed the support of the provincial authorities in Minsk. It is characteristic that R. Avigdor quotes the evidence of Jews from Vilna and Slutsk in support of his written charges, but not the evidence of his own fellow-townsmen from Pinsk. As a result of the arguments and other weapons employed by R. Avigdor in this final stage, his struggle against the hasidim lost its originally selfless religious character and degenerated into a private war for the satisfaction of personal demands (such as repayment of debts), carried on by means of denunciations to the Russian authorities, even though R. Avigdor still endeavored to base his charges on the tenets of Judaism. Before the Senate had had time to study the documents in the dispute, a palace revolution took place in St. Petersburg (the assassination of the Tsar Paul by his ministers, March 1801). R. Shneur-Zalman was immediately released and permitted to return home; and thus ended the struggle between him and R. Avigdor.

Amongst all the bitter enemies of hasidism, R. Avigdor occupies a special place in the hasidic writings and stories. He is referred to simply as 'Avigdor,' with the addition of such appellations as "the wicked one,' 'the informer,' 'may his name and memory be blotted out,' and the like; and it is related of him that he was reduced to abject poverty and finally came to beg alms of R. Shneur-Zalman, and also that his sons became hasidim. This tradition about the conversion of R. Avigdor's sons to hasidism is confirmed by one of his descendants, who writes as follows: 'The Israelit family... were... on the father's side, descended from R. Avigdor of Pinsk, the well-known adversary of R. Shneur-Zalman of Ladi... From the first beginnings of Habad hasidism this family was a stronghold of mithnagdism. However, my grandfather, the grandson of R. Avigdor of Pinsk whose name he actually bore, made a breach, as it were, in this fortress, for he became a fervent hasid. In this he was followed by my father... whose house was steeped in Torah and hasidism.' [116] What happened to R. Avigdor in the last years of his life is not known. His son was a dayyan in Pinsk. [117]

In all the documents, both the official government memoranda and the petitions of R. Avigdor, the hasidim are referred to as 'Karliners'; and the same name is used by the hasidim themselves in their letters. R. Avigdor, in one of his letters, explains the appellation as follows: 'Those who flock after him [sc. R. Shneur-Zalman] are called Karliners because, after the death of the two writers mentioned above [the Besht and the Maggid of Mezerich], Aharon and Shelomo [i.e., R. Aharon the Great and R. Shelomo of Karlin] of the community of Karlin in the province of Minsk were the first to follow in their footsteps.' [118] R. Shneur-Zalman, on the other hand, uses the term 'hasidim' and remarks 'that he [sc. R. Avigdor] calls them Karliners only out of hatred.' [119] The representative of the Vilna community writes: 'because of their wildness the hasidim are called Karliners.' [120] All these statements show that the appellation 'Karliners' was an insulting term of abuse, and it was used in this sense down to the fifties of the nineteenth century. [121]

During the years 1794-1801 the numbers of the hasidim increased, thanks to the legal status that they enjoyed both in Pinsk itself and also in Polesia. Perhaps their numbers were now swelled by all those who had previously been afraid to proclaim their adherence to the movement openly. Small groups of Karlin hasidim now came into existence not only in central Polesia, but also in other towns of Lithuania. Thus, for example, in Vilna there was a Karlin prayer-house ['shtiebel,' 'shulkhen'], and even a Lakhovich 'shtiebel.' The Lakhovich hasidim, who appear to have been numerous, maintained contact with their Rebbe, R. Mordekhai, through his son-in-law, R. Yitshak the son of R. Wolf, who used to visit them regularly and give them moral support in their struggle to maintain their position.

In the conflict between the mithnagdim and the hasidim, the mass of ordinary Jews came down firmly on the side of the hasidim, and the Tsarist regime gave legal confirmation to the popular verdict: 'If in any town the dispute becomes so bitter that one group refuses to pray with the other in the same synagogue, then either has the right to build a synagogue of its own and to elect its own rabbis. But both groups shall form one community.' ['Polozheniye' 1804]. [122]


E. Rabbi Asher the First (1793 - 1826)

After their victory in the last decade of the eighteenth century the Karlin hasidim were able to follow their own customs, openly and without fear of molestation. But the bitter animosity between them and the mithnaged majority all around them was not completely extinguished, and from time to time it flared up again into communal and personal strife.

Throughout the nineteenth century Karlin hasidism preserved its character virtually unchanged. The new elements introduced by hasidism into the beliefs and worships of Judaism crystallized, in time, into a fixed pattern of dogma. The leader of the hasidim, in whom they had unbounded faith, was the Tsaddik or Rebbe. His opinion and authority were absolutely binding on all members of the sect. These Tsaddikim established family dynasties, with the father's power and sanctity passing to the son. The Tsaddik knew every single one of his followers personally and was acquainted with their private affairs and worries; he was always ready with an encouraging word; he supported them in their griefs and shared in their joys, and at all times he was their guide in piety and worship. The Tsaddik's paternal attitude to his hasidim, together with the individual hasid's faith in the sanctity and power of his Tsaddik, had a marked effect on the hasid's whole spiritual character, setting him apart from the Lithuanian rabbinical environment in which he lived. The focal point of the Karlin hasid's -- as of any other hasid's -- life was his Rebbe, because 'the Rebbe, too, is thinking of him all the time.' This intimate relationship with the Rebbe had a similar effect on the relations of the hasidim with each other. The Karlin hasid was like all the other hasidim in that he lived his life within the closed circle of his hasidic environment. But, as a result of the special development and stress that it gave to certain basic hasidic tenets, Karlin hasidism took on a form that distinguished it from the rest of the hasidic movement.

During the first quarter of the nineteenth century the Karlin hasidim were led by R. Asher of Stolin, the son of R. Aharon the Great who has already been mentioned. Under R. Asher's leadership, the number of the Karlin hasidim seems to have increased, especiaIIy in Polesia and Volhynia, thanks to the favorable geographical position occupied by Stolin on the borders of the province of Volhynia. R. Asher's father, R. Aharon the Great, had gone to the people; now the people came to R. Asher, but not always in order to get from R. Asher what R. Aharon the Great had wanted to give them.

Hasidic tradition relates that, during the emergency of the Napoleonic wars, the Karlin hasidim found a safe place of refuge in R. Asher's house. Among the 'holy writings' discovered in the Stolin genizah were two of R. Asher's pinkasim [private notes]. In one of these, comprising mainly records of family matters, there is a will drawn up by R. Asher from which it is clear that he possessed considerable wealth in money and landed property. Yet -- and this should be stressed -- the dynasty of Karlin Tsaddikim were not ambitious for material wealth, nor did they aspire to give their 'court' the external magnificence which was so sought after by some of the Tsaddikim in Volhynia and the Ukraine. On the contrary, it was the custom of the Karlin Tsaddikim to take money from their wealthy hasidim and distribute it amongst their poorer followers.

R. Asher was in the habit, on Sabbaths and Festivals, of expounding a Hasidic interpretation of the weekly portion of the Law. A collection of these hasidic sermons, together with 'Rules of Right Conduct,' 'Exhortations,' and several of R. Asher's letters, was published by the Karlin hasidim, and are included in the volume Beth Aharon. [123] In the preface to this work, the publishers write as follows: '... Excellent sermons… delivered... by our Teacher and Master, R. Aharon himself [sc. R. Aharon the Second, the son of R. Asher the First]... accurately and truly recorded... We have added a separate section for the holy writings… of our Teacher R. Asher [the First]… and several articles are as written in his holy hand. Also some holy letters, and the daily programme of our holy Rebbes... who delivered it from their holy hand to the community of Yeshurun [i.e., the Jews] that thronged the Rebbes' threshold... And the holy writings of our Master and Teacher [R. Aharon the Second]… and of his father [R. Asher the First]... which were collected together... and annotated in the holy hand of our revered Teacher and Master [R. Aharon the Second] of blessed memory, various annotations on various themes... We have thought fit to add other excellent matters, written down by the followers of our Teacher and Master [R. Aharon the Second] as a record of his holy words which they heard from his holy mouth at various times, when they were in the sanctity of his house. Although some of these matters are similar to the sermons already mentioned which were written by our Teacher and Master... we have nevertheless, out of reverence for his sanctity, printed every one of them without any alterations...' From these prefatory remarks, and also from the introductions added by the hasidim themselves to every article and from their occasional comments inserted in the text, it may be inferred that the hasidim took pains to give the name of the author of every manuscript, although we cannot be sure that they always succeeded. The writings of R. Asher the First -- as stated by the hasidim themselves in the 'Preface' -- were edited by his son R. Aharon.

About the character and opinions of R. Asher we can learn from the 'Rules of Right Conduct' [Hanhagoth Yesharoth] which he gave to his followers and which were printed together with the will of his father, R. Aharon the Great, during the lifetime of his son and successor, R. Aharon the Second (Chernovits 1849 and 1855). R. Asher charges his hasidim as follows: 'Every one of you must sanctify himself, that the Lord may dwell within him, as it is written: "And you shall make me a shrine that I may dwell there," etc. (Exodus XXV, 8)... And every one of you shall divide his days and years between the study of the Bible, the Mishnah, and the Gemara and Aggadah, this being the bounden duty of every Jew... Everyone must devote himself to the study of the Gemara and Posekim and must learn according to his need; he must not let himself be unoccupied, for in moments of idleness it is better that he should take up the holy Prophets and learn morality and piety from them... Let every one that has the mind and intention to learn and understand the Gemara and the Posekim be very careful. Let him not be like those that learn -- Heaven forbid! -- only for their own greater glory, but let him, with his keen mind, fully comprehend all that he learns. Let him not go on from one matter to another until he has fully understood the first, and let him go over it again three or four times until he knows it by heart... A little studying done with his whole heart will be of benefit to him alike in sharpening his wits, improving his memory, and increasing his piety...' 'Let him take care to have a good, faithful and trustworthy friend to whom he can tell all his innermost thoughts for at least half an hour every day...' 'Let every one take care to give a tithe of what he earns, and let him not think this a trivial matter, as expounded in the Gemara and Midrash and Posekim...'

The other writings attributed to R. Asher the First -- 'several articles in his own holy hand' -- which were printed at a later date (Beth Aharon, Brody 1875) also give us an insight into his conception of hasidism. In one of these, which the hasidim attest to have been 'copied from the original manuscript of the same holy Rabbi [R. Asher the First],' we read the following instructions to the hasidim: 'When any one of you has to speak about the affairs of this world, let his thought be that he is going down from a higher sphere, like a man that is going out from his house and intends to return. Just as such a man, while walking, is thinking when he will return to his house, so let the hasid always think of the higher world, where is his real home, of the Creator Blessed Be He, even when he is talking of the affairs of this world. Let his thoughts return at once to cleave first of all to the Creator Blessed Be He.' 'Let not a man be too strict in examining everything that he does, for this is the intention of the evil impulse [ha-yetser hara] -- to make him fear that he is not doing this thing as he should, in order to plunge him into melancholy. And melancholy, as we know, is a great hindrance to the proper worship of the Creator. Even if a man has transgressed let him not be so overcome by melancholy as to stop his work. Let him simply regret the transgression, and then once more rejoice in the Creator. Since he is genuinely contrite… he should not be melancholy, but should consider that the Creator, who searches the heart and reins, knows that his wish is to do only what is best.' For 'the Holy One Blessed Be He does not upbraid His creatures… for everything is judged according to human nature, according to the place and the time, and according to the measure [of each man's] faith and piety and intelligence... and purity of heart and strength of mind are enough for you to be able to carry out the commandment: "Know Him in all your ways." How can you "know Him"? In joy… and then you will attain true wisdom… Let everyone worship the Creator joyfully at all times and rejoice in his lot, the lot given him by God on High.' With regard to the mithnagdim, R. Asher lays down the following 'great principle: When people abuse the hasid for his form of prayer or for other matters, he shall not answer them even in a conciliatory tone, so as not to start a quarrel and give rise to pride, for pride makes man forget the Creator Blessed Be He. And our Sages have said: "Silence makes a man humble.”'

Very typical and instructive -- both for R. Asher's estimate of the importance and purpose of the study of the Law and also for his fatherly attitude to his followers -- is the letter that he wrote to one of his close associates, which is also included in the volume Beth Aharon. In one part of this letter, R. Asher writes:

'… Your son-in-law (long may he live!) told me that your honor is neglecting your trade… and not doing any business, but wishes just to sit at home… You must know, my dear friend, that this is not the right way. It is plainly written in the Torah: "Thou shalt eat the fruit of thy labors," etc. And in the Gemara: "He that enjoys the fruit of his labors is greater than the God-fearing man." Believe me, my dear friend, that one loan or one small coin given as charity, or any of the other practical observances, especially entertaining guests… is better than several weeks, perhaps even years, of studying the Torah. For the end of study is action... as you can learn from the questions asked: Did you do business honestly and did you study the Torah regularly? Which shows that whoever does business honestly is not obliged only to study the Torah regularly... and the way is thus open to businessmen who wish to turn aside from evil and do good: as I wrote, more than by several weeks of study. With God's help it has been granted me to persuade several people, who wished to do as you do, to carry on with their business; and they, thank God, are grateful to me, both in this world and the next. The main thing is that you should not be negligent in any matter of business. For you must know that, when you neglect your business, your study suffers, too. Of this, too, it is written: "Thou shalt not eat the bread of idleness…” God willing, when you follow my advice, I shall write to you at greater length. Your task is to act, and the Lord will bring the work to a good end... I have told my brother-in-law (long may he live!) to look after you and watch over your health; to see to it that you eat properly and sleep properly, and that you get the sleep you require for the health of your body, head and limbs. Please do not treat this matter lightly, especially as you are by nature thin and delicate. Your study of the Torah will, God willing, be improved by your care.'

Some time later R. Asher moved to Karlin, the place to which, fifty years before, his father had with such enthusiasm and devotion brought the doctrine of hasidism from Mezerich. The exact year of R. Asher's return to Karlin is not known, but it could not have been before 1810, since in that year he was still living in Stolin, where he was visited by R. Mordekhai of Lakhovich, who also died there. [124] Thus Karlin once more became the center of the Karlin hasidim.

R. Asher's importance in the hasidic world and his relations with other contemporary Tsaddikim are indicated by two documents found in the Stolin genizah: a letter from R. Asher to the famed Tsaddik of the Polish hasidim, R. Yisrael of Kozhenits ('the Maggid of Kozhenits'; both the original and a copy of this letter were found); and a public proclamation written by R. Asher in support of Jews living in Palestine. Although neither of the documents is dated, it is clear that they were both written at the beginning of the nineteenth century. [125] Below are excerpts from the letter sent by R. Asher the First of Stolin to R. Yisrael of Kozhenits:

'With the help of the Holy Name, on the second day of the week... here in the community of Stolin.

'Greetings, greetings... to his reverence... the Rabbi... the man of God... the renowned hasid... Yisrael (long may he live!) together with... his wife and children (long may they live!) and all his followers... to all of them greetings and peace upon Israel.

'Praise be to God, we are alive and well, I and my pious wife... Feige-Bathyah, and my little son, Aharon, and my daughter, Perl, and her husband and his children, and my wife's son... Moshe-Baer... and his wife and children... The Lord be praised... we are all... here alive and well, and may we be granted the blessing of prosperity... life and peace... that it may be vouchsafed me to behold his holy reverence's countenance... in life, joy, and peace.

'My dearly beloved friend... whom I remember at all times... and whom I entreat... to have me engraved on his pure and holy heart... and to accept my offering [i.e., gift] which I gladly send to him, that it may please him to recall me, my son, and my wife. Even though I am far away... from his reverence, yet is my soul bound to his soul... In almost every prayer, and especially on our holy Sabbaths... I am bound to him... with bonds of love... and in particular... his holy words... delivered to me by R. Barukh of Zhelikhov who requested me in his holy name… to remain silent and calm and not to intervene in the dispute...

'... God will remember that, when I was in the community of Zhelikhov, I had several adventures and with the Lord's help I found the middle path. To be sure, here, too, [in Stolin], there were several such incidents... but this is not my way... Heaven protect me from matters of this kind and their like [i.e., quarrels], and I shall not go back on what I have said. It may have happened once in a year that I was obliged to speak in public... for when... a man truly and sincerely desires to receive moral guidance, it is my duty to prevent him from committing a transgression, as my heart and soul prompt me. But apart from this... I shall not speak... for several private reasons.

'... My very dear friend... be sure… that my faith is no mere formal observance (Heaven forbid!)... My heart cries to the Lord… I have learnt from the holy ones of the Most High, and especially from his reverence's holy lips, how to keep our faith... Only he... who is in the habit of exaggerating... can say, "Accept my opinion and my manner of worship; this is the way in which they shall all walk.".. But we have received all the ways of the Lord, loving kindness and truth, from our sovereign David, King of Israel... In short, the wise man in this time will be silent, etc.

'... I know that the holy Rabbi (blessed be he and blessed be his name! ...) weeps out his soul in secret… and his heart cries to the Lord for this... Neither do I say, Accept my opinion; but only... that Israel's faith in Torah, prayer, and mitsvoth should be strengthened, as when he stood at the foot of Mount Sinai and said "We shall do and obey."

'... Who is the man that presumes to intervene in the dispute and to delay (Heaven forbid!) the reconciliation? Let my lord believe me that, at the time when I wrote, I could not control myself, so great was my grief… My lord has the wisdom and knowledge… to understand... the root of the matter. Therefore let him do what seems right to him. I trust in his graciousness and goodness to find me innocent and thereby behold the goodness of my heart... Thus far have I poured out my heart…

'In short, were I to describe to his reverence in detail several matters... that I saw with my own eyes and heard with my own ears, and that I can testify to... my lord would be astounded by the report and would certainly, as I think, publicly demand that they abandon this way. I need not mention them by name... There are thousands upon thousands of them, almost a whole State, that speak in the streets only about the mystic secrets of the Law… They have cast truth and faith to the ground and falsely slander the holy ones of the Most High [i.e., the Tsaddikim]…saying: "Everything with them is as naught... they spurn the observance of the mitsvoth and despise the plain meaning of the Torah."… If I were able... to describe... how the shiddukh [marriage agreement] was made with the holy Rabbi and Gaon... that they might have a specious cause for an otherwise unjustifiable quarrel… They achieved what they desired, but they did not act truthfully...

'May the Lord preserve us from evil and strange thoughts! Far be it from me and from my father's house to intervene in the dispute. I have never presumed… to say that I, too, am one of the great ones of our time. I do not stand in the presence of the great; nay, I pray the Lord... at all times and every hour that I may know my place, and that it may be granted me to be the youngest... and humblest of the disciples, and to be truly close... to the holy ones of our time... I trust in my Lord's graciousness and goodness... and in the honesty of my intentions in this, and that all will end well.

'From me who write to his reverence... about my heart's friendship... and whose soul... longs to be... in his courts and to behold the delight... of his glorious holiness, in life and peace. May he remember me for good... at all times and at every hour...

His friend for ever...'

The letter is full of allusions, names being hardly mentioned at all: 'I need not mention them by name.' But it is clear that the main point concerns 'the great controversy.' The key to understanding some of the events hinted at in the letter can be provided by certain details from the contemporary history of hasidism and also from R. Asher's own private life. When R. Asher writes sorrowfully about what he endured in Zhelikhov, he is no doubt referring to the dispute between himself and R. Levi-Yitshak of Berdichev. [126]

'The holy Rabbi, blessed be he and blessed be his name,' mentioned in the letter is presumably the Tsaddik R. Barukh of Mezhibozh, whose pupil R. Asher had been for a short time. [127] R. Asher complains of 'thousands upon thousands... almost a whole State, that speak in the streets only about the mystic secrets of the Law... They have cast truth and faith to the ground, and falsely slander the holy ones of the Most High,' the reference here, apparently, being to the Habad hasidim of R. Shneur-Zalman. It is well known that at this time a violent dispute had broken out between the Tsaddikim. R. Avraham of Kalisk (then in Palestine), R. Barukh of Mezhibozh, R. Mordekhai of Lakhovich and R. Asher of Stolin all strongly opposed R. Shneur-Zalman of Ladi, who was supported by R. Levi-Yitshak of Berdichev. [128] The cause of the dispute was, as can be inferred from the letters written by R. Asher [129] and by R. Avraham of Kalisk, [130] not only doctrinal, but also partly personal, especially in the case of R. Barukh of Mezhibozh, on account of R. Shneur-Zalman's great influence. R. Asher, in this letter, after remarking on the spiritual difference between Karlin and Habad hasidism, promises not to take any part in the dispute and appeals for moral support to his teacher, R. Yisrael of Kozhenits. The letter is written throughout in a humble and submissive tone, indicating that the writer felt that he was under attack. It is evident from this letter that R. Asher at this period had as yet nothing of the inner confidence and proud status of his father, R. Aharon the Great. [131] The letter was most probably written at some time between 1802, the year of the birth of 'the little son of Aharon,' and 1807, the year of the death of Perl's husband, R. Aharon, who is mentioned in the letter with the addition of the words 'may he live!'

The text of R. Asher the First's public appeal on behalf of the Holy Land runs as follows:

'... Be silent and hear, 0 Israel!... Blessed be the Lord that has sanctified us with the sanctity of the Land of Israel... For this, sages and prophets have instructed us to set aside a place for our prayer thrice daily for our Land and... our holy Temple... Verily, His mercies have not failed us till now... Throughout our borders... those that perform His word in the Holy Land... are strengthened by great benefactions and fulfill their holy charge... interceding for us and our brethren that dwell outside it. Now I have seen that there is none among you who will rouse you from your deep slumber, that you may defend ourselves... and find a place in the Lord's inheritance... Hence I have resolved... to make known to you my request and entreaty: My dearly beloved Jewish brethren, awaken your hearts to feel pity and compassion for the poor of our Land, the Land of Life, man and woman, child and suckling. Strengthen and support, I pray you... the cities of our God... and strengthen your hearts, all you that wait for the Lord... Then they will rejoice in us and in our gift... and their good deeds shall never fail us. And you, sons of the Living God... do you help each other. Let each one say to his brother, "Be strong and of good courage in the service of the Lord!" Let them strengthen the hands of those engaged in the work... by bringing the money to the House of the Lord, that their contribution may last for ever... We are further obliged to make it known to our dearly beloved Jewish brethren... since in every town and village there are dissenters... who also desire the important office for themselves and their own benefit, who call evil good and... willfully weaken the hands of those that are performing this mitsvah... This one comes with a claim of priority: Why was he not given the performance of this mitsvah, since he would have carried it out more properly?... Beware of men like these, whose names are already known... Know full well that the Rabbi and Gaon, the Righteous Priest, our Teacher and Master from the Land of Israel, has written about these men that they should know they are putting their own lives in danger... Moreover I shall make the facts known to all the honest Tsaddikim and Hasidim… that all should know who they are... Again and again I have uttered the warning of our holy Law and the warning of all the Tsaddikim with whom my soul is bound up... Think not that this is a matter of no import, for it has been explicitly stipulated that all the holy money shall be handed over to me. God willing, we shall bring them receipts from the Land of Life [i.e., the Holy Land], them and their wives and children... May He bless you with abundance of strength and peace! Peace upon Israel!... From me, who write and sign on behalf of our brethren and on behalf of the Land [of Israel] and of those that dwell therein... May it be vouchsafed them to go up to Zion rejoicing... and may the light of our righteous Messiah shine forth...

'Asher, the son of our Master R. Aharon of blessed memory.'

This proclamation undoubtedly contains a reference to the quarrel between R. Avraham of Kalisk, who was at that time living in Palestine, and R. Shneur-Zalman, who was authorized to collect money for the Jewish community in Palestine. [132] A number of other Tsaddikim, who had taken part in the fund-raising, were obliged to settle the dispute in favor of one or other of these two Tsaddikim. The pressure was particularly strong on the Lithuanian Tsaddikim, since they lived in close proximity to R. Shneur-Zalman. R. Asher's proclamation proves that he regarded R. Avraham of Kalisk as the sole authorized collector: 'The Rabbi and Gaon, the Righteous Priest, our Teacher and Master from the Land of Israel.' Of R. Avraham's rivals he writes with great bitterness, warning his own followers to 'beware of men like these,' and announcing -- doubtless on behalf of R. Avraham of Kalisk -- that he, R Asher, has been appointed to supervise the collection of money for the land of Israel! [133] Found amongst 'the holy writings' in the Stolin genizah were receipts for various sums of money sent by R. Asher to Palestine. The proclamation was written between 1801, when the dispute between R. Avraham of Kalisk and R. Shneur-Zalman was at its height, [134] and 1810, the year of R. Avraham's death. [135]

In contrast to the humble and submissive tone which makes itself felt in the letter to R. Yisrael of Kozhenits and in the proclamation on behalf of the Jewish community in Palestine, a very different note is heard in R. Asher the First's letter to certain Jews who were desecrating the Sabbath in pursuance of their business. This letter, which is printed in Beth Aharon, was also found in the Stolin genizah bearing the address of certain salt merchants of Kremenets in Volhynia, some of whom used 'to eat at his table.' Here R. Asher appears in the role of stern castigator and does not shrink from upbraiding and rebuking the Rabbanim, 'the religious teachers of Israel,' who 'are paid by the community… to teach the Lord's people His ways... and should stand in the breach... and warn the children of Israel to keep well away from what is forbidden… Then why now… do they put... their hands to their mouths, and why are they thus silent? If they are small in their own eyes, let them remember that they are the leaders of the children of Israel.' He goes on to demand of them that 'wherever their authority rules, they should impose... enormous fines on this offence... and above all that they should exhort the mass of the people... to act with reverence for the teachers of the Law.'

This letter supplements what we have learnt about the personality of R. Asher the First from his 'Rules of Right Conduct' and 'Exhortations' and from his other letters quoted above. It shows that, in the course of time R. Asher gained authority and recognition as a responsible leader of the Jewish masses, even though he himself admits that at first he refrained from upbraiding the mithnagdim, for fear that they would not listen to him. When I heard this... I said to myself that I had better be silent and refrain from words of censure.' It was only, writes R. Asher further on in his letter, 'when I discovered that the men who raised their hands were themselves of those… that eat at my table… that I thought I might have the power to protest. Perhaps it is my task to warn them that they should hearken to my voice. I have come to perform my duty. For that I will raise my voice.' In contrast to what we know of the early days of hasidism, when the founder of the new movement sought to protect the simple Jew from the harshness of the Rabbanim, R. Asher now demands of the Rabbanim that they should 'impose enormous fines' on the desecrators of the Sabbath. A further piece of information provided by this letter is that, in those days, non-Jews were economically dependent on Jewish merchants who used to exploit this fact to compel 'them [the Gentiles] to desecrate their holy day, just as they [the Jews] desecrate their own holy day.' R. Asher protests vehemently against this attitude of the Jews to the Gentiles. The expression 'of those... that eat at my table,' used here by R. Asher to denote his own hasidim, is very characteristic, and corroborates the tradition of the Karlin hasidim about the existence .of a 'table' in Stolin and Karlin in the time of R. Asher the First. The letter also provides confirmatory evidence that, already in R. Asher's day, there were Karlin hasidim in the town of Kremenets, which is situated in the southern part of Volhynia. The letter is undated, but must have been written after the struggle with the mithnagdim had ended and R. Asher was firmly established in his 'court' -- most probably in the twenties of the nineteenth century.

Among the small number of writings left by R. Asher the First, there is an incomplete collection of expositions of the Readings of the Law for Sabbaths and Festivals, which were published in Beth Aharon. In form and content, R. Asher's expositions are similar to those of most of the hasidic teachers of that time, being built around words and verses from the biblical text and interspersed with quotations from the Midrash and the Zohar, interpreted according to hasidic and kabbalistic concepts. R. Asher several times quotes the exegesis of R. Shelomo of Karlin, introducing the quotations with the words: 'And I heard from the lips of my holy Teacher, R. Shelomo, may his soul rest in bliss!' This form of words tends to confirm that the expositions were actually written by R. Asher himself. On the other hand, in another place we read: 'When R. Asher returned home from visiting the holy and revered Rabbi of Mezhibozh, he related in his name'; or again, 'he gave precise details,' using the third person. Some idea of R. Asher's conception of hasidism, his way of worship, and his humanity can be obtained from several of the sayings attributed to him, like those quoted by R. Aharon the Second: 'I once heard my revered Father, Teacher and Rabbi say, "Know whence [Heb. me-ayin] you have come -- that means, Know that you have come from nothing" [Heb. me-ayin]. And again: "A man must count every day, every moment and all the days of the year"; "Happy the man that fears always -- that means, Fears Him Who is always there"; "Knowledge is of Me – that means, what is of Me is knowledge, and what is not of Me is not Knowledge"; "The true mark of hasidism is the love of one's fellow-men"; "Men think that the Holy One Blessed Be He dwells in glory in the heavens above, in the loftiest heights, but no -- the Holy One Blessed Be He dwells on the earth below, in the lowest places of the earth, and everyone can reach Him, even the smallest and most insignificant Jew can reach Him"; "For Thou hearest the prayer of every mouth -- even if it is only from the mouth.'"

The hasidim relate that R. Asher was once asked by a hasid: 'Can I really repent, when I have committed a sin of which it is written in the books that repentance is of no avail to annul it? R. Asher replied: 'What has this to do with you? Your business is to perform your duty. If you fear that you have forfeited your portion in the world to come, remember what our Sages of blessed memory have said -- One hour spent in true contrition and in good works in this world is better than all the life of the world to come.' R. Asher's opinion of the Tsaddik's function is indicated by the following story. R. Asher expressed his displeasure with those hasidim that would speak of what was good in their deeds and keep silent about what was bad. To these he used to say: Look at the difference between the early hasidim and their latter-day followers! When today's hasidim welcome their Rebbe they show him the good and conceal from him the bad, whereas the early hasidim used to conceal the good and tell the bad. That is what I used to do when I visited my teacher R. Shelomo of Karlin. I used to hide the good from him. Is he in God's place? Does he dispense reward and punishment? But the bad I used to reveal to him. As it is written: "If any man be afflicted with leprosy, he shall be brought to the priest and the priest shall see it.”' (Lev. xiii, 9.)

Amongst the 'holy writings' found at Stolin were the following letters from and to R. Asher the First: a letter of encouragement from R. Asher (quoted above) to a certain R. Yosef of Pinsk about the persecution of R. Asher's followers by 'this man' [R. Avigdor of Pinsk]; [136] a detailed letter to one of his own followers, written just before the 'Penitential Days' [ha-Yamim ha-Noraim], explaining the value and importance of the hasidic-style prayers on Rosh Hashanah and stressing, not the element of 'judgment' in these Penitential Days, but rather the joy and confidence expressed in them; [137] a letter (dated the day after Sukkoth, 1801) from R. Yisrael of Kozhenits to R. Asher after the death of the latter's wife, in which the writer expresses a high regard for the widow of R. Aharon 'the Silent' of Zhelikhov [or for his daughter?]; a letter of New Year Greetings to R. Asher from the Tsaddik R. Yehoshua-Heshel of Apta; various letters from R. Asher to his son, R. Aharon, about journeys and family affairs; a list of R. Asher's books, and of his lucky charms and other proved means of warding off illnesses. Also found in the Stolin genizah were the following letters belonging to R. Asher's period: the will of the Tsaddik R. Mordekhai of Kremenets, the son of R. Yehiel-Mikhal of Zlochov, whose daughter married R. Asher's son; a letter from R. Avraham of Kalisk to R. Nahum of Chernobyl about a contribution of money for Erets Yisrael; a letter, (dated 1796) from the Tsaddik R. Yehudah-Leib of Sasov to his followers; [138] a letter from R. Mordekhai of Chernobyl to R. Shemaryahu of Olevsk about the ritual slaughterer's license granted to the shohet Yaakov Koppel and his son, who were the cause of communal dissension in the town; and a second letter (1810) from R. Yehoshua-Heshel of Apta, who was at that time in Mezhibozh, also about the ritual slaughterers of Olevsk; a letter from R. Barukh of Mezhibozh (dated Sunday, Portion of the Week Va-Yakhel, 1810) to a certain R. Yaakov-Shimshon about the journey of a family to Rashkov; a letter from the Tsaddik R. David Halevi of Stepan to the Jews of the town Rokitno about their behavior; and a letter from R. Pinhas of Korets and R. Yehiel-Mikhal of Zlochov. The search of the Stolin genizah brought to light no letters from R. Shneur-Zalman of Ladi.

One of the 'holy writings' found in the genizah was, then, the will of the Tsaddik R. Mordekhai of Kremenets, the son of R. Yehiel-Mikhal of Zlochov and, as stated, a relative by marriage of R. Asher. Part of this will is quoted below, to show the spiritual character of this Tsaddik who was the father-in-law of R. Aharon the Second of Karlin.

Last Will and Testament, on the fifth day of the week, in the month of Tammuz, [5]580[=1820].

Now my sons, be strong in the Law of the Lord and in pious awe [yirah] of Him, and in prayer.

This shall be the order of your praying: Accustom yourselves to rise early and do not spend time on your ablutions... but forthwith say all the blessings and the hatsoth prayer [in memory of the destruction of the Temple], followed by passages from the Psalms. Avoid all speaking before prayer, except what is absolutely necessary. Then, stand up to pray in reverence and awe, stressing every single word; and put aside all worldly thoughts while praying, for the time of prayer is when we are most tempted to indulge in vain worldly thoughts, and therefore you must be very strong against this temptation and request the Lord's help to resist it. If you wish to pray before the Ark [i.e., to lead the prayers in the Synagogue], so much the better, for most certainly I would have you do this; but let it be only for the Lord alone, and not for the worshipper's own pleasure... Straight after the prayer be sure to study... And above all let it be done with all your heart and soul... If you go in the true way, it will be granted you to understand the profound meaning of prayer.

Order of Study

… Study Mikra [the Bible], Mishnah, Gemara, and the Posekim and Musar [moral] literature daily. Study a section of the Aggadah before sleeping; and on no account lie down to sleep with your head full of idle matters, but only with thoughts of penitence… Then you will go in the true way and attain to the wisdom of the Kabbalah. After midnight is the time for the Kabbalah, and you must on no account break off your study in the middle... The essential thing is that it be done with reverence and awe, with humility and self-abasement, and that each one should withdraw completely into himself while studying and confess and entreat the Divine Name to help him in attaining to the innermost meaning of the Law and to devotion [devekuth] to the Creator. This I have attempted to do with God's help, and you, too, will surely be aided by Heaven. I admonish you to obey me, as sons are in duty bound to obey their father, for your own good in this world and the next.

Rules for Right Conduct

Keep far away from anger, pride, honor, and dissension. If (Heaven forbid!) there should be any dissension in the town where you dwell, be among the peace-makers and do not take either side in the dispute. All the more so shall you beware of dissension in your own house, and you shall take great care that peace and love prevail between you, as becomes brothers. In every matter of conduct you shall consult each other. Beware of idling and watching the markets and the streets, for the evil impulse blinds man's eyes and says that this is a small matter. But in reality it separates the soul from the true essence of life. Accustom yourself always to speak gently with everyone and to answer softly, and not coarsely (Heaven forbid!), even with the least of men. By this you will make yourselves beloved of Him Above and popular with those below. And the Divine Name will certainly be with you.

Solemn Injunction to Honor Your Mother

Take very great care indeed to honor your mother, in body and in spirit and in all her needs, and to consult and obey her, in everything speaking to her respectfully and most politely. Let not even a single day pass without your going to her and speaking to her. Only if you are not in your homes are you excused. All this that I enjoin you to do is very little...

Solemn Injunction to My Daughters-in-Law

You, my daughters-in-law, do I solemnly enjoin to treat your husbands with due respect. Do not upset your husbands in any matter, but always speak to them affectionately. I most solemnly enjoin you to refrain from bad language, above all (Heaven forbid!) to your husbands and children. I absolutely forbid this. If you obey me, you will be granted every happiness in this world and in the next. Know that your husbands are men of noble descent in Israel and it is therefore your duty to show them all manner of respect, and by so doing you will be bringing honor to yourselves.'

R. Asher the First, 'the old man of Stolin' as the Karlin hasidim affectionately called him, died on the 26th Tishri, 1826, at the age of 67. [139] The tomb of R. Asher, with a 'perpetual light' [ner tamid] always burning in it, stood in the Karlin cemetery next to the modest stone over the grave of his father, R. Aharon the Great. Into this tomb the caretaker of the last Rebbe, R. Elimelekh, who lived in Karlin, would insert the 'requests' written by the hasidim who used to visit the grave in time of trouble.

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